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Sunday, 14 August 2011

London-Surrey Cycle Race

Today's story has to be about the London-Surrey Cycle Race which was a test event for the Olympic Games next year and which took place today.

This was really big - the largest barriered event in the UK - some 140km long. From The Mall it left London via Brompton Road, Fulham Road, Putney Bridge, Richmond Park and Kingston out to Dorking. A couple of circuits of Box Hill (the women's Olympic course; the men will do 11 circuits), and then back again.

The entire route had to be closed in the early hours of Sunday morning and left sterile until the competitors passed back through it on their return.

The logistics arrangements were huge. We notified residents and businesses within 400m of the route in London by personal letter twice. It was on the internet, in newspapers, on the radio and there were 'drop-in' centres in each of the London Boroughs. The Boroughs themselves did all they could to help people locally. We even put leaflets under the wipers of cars parked (legally!) on the route over the previous two weeks, and emailed Oyster Card holders in the area. We also talked to hospitals, churches and other affected organisations.

But you don't take out that much road space without causing some difficulties and by the end of last week we had helped many people make their plans - mothers-to-be with due dates in this fortnight, people leaving to go on holiday and so on.

The great news is that it was a success. For such a huge event no arrests and only 16 cars found on the course when we had to close the roads and so had to be towed away.

Of course there were traffic delays around the area and quite a few people who seemed to know nothing about the event and who chose to bring their cars into town were affected.

This was of course an Olympic test event - a race organised as part of London Prepares. This LOCOG event was organised in collaboration with TfL, the London Boroughs, DfT, the emergency services and many others. It is a dress rehearsal for the first two days of the 2012 Games - (the Women's and men's separate races are on 28th and 29th July 2012). Indeed the first one will be the first at which someone will be awarded a medal and today it was a GB competitor who won so potentially our first Gold Medal.

Numerous lessons were learned of course - that's why we have test events. Thousands of people lined the route and cheered the riders on. All were part of London's daily visitor economy which delivers millions of pounds into the businesses in the capital.

We will be reviewing the whole day's activities (which started with the placing of the barriers in strategic places earlier in the week!) in preparation for next year.

A good time therefore to thank everyone involved for their hard work in the planning and delivery; to the London Boroughs for all their work; to all the agencies which contributed; and to everyone for making it such a success.

At 0600 in a Police vehicle my team and I inspected the whole route from end to end. An amazingly deserted, barriered Fulham Road. We got from The Mall the Kingston in 20 mins!



  1. "The great news is that it was a success..."
    "Thousands of people lined the route..."
    And millions (on their day off work) had their freedom to travel curtailed. It would be interesting to know just what percentage of the population care a fig about cycle racing.

  2. I really do hope TFL take this as an example of how much preparation needs to be taken for next year! What a mess!

    Staff had no idea where the buses were stopping/picking up from. It was poorly advertised on the bus stops with the information sheets going up less than a week before the event in some areas. At Heathrow there was no poster about the changes on the X26 which was one of the most affected routes! Another example: Lower Teddington Road bus stop, served by routes 281 and 285 both affected on the day. The yellow information sheet up at the bus stop was the wrong one, listing routes affected in RICHMOND routes such as the 33,270,337 etc and no mention of the 281/5

    The TFL staff were genuinely rude slagging both drivers and passengers off!

    Route 371 was stranded in Richmond bus station for a short time as the road it was using got blocked off meaning it couldn’t move. The staff generally had no idea where the bus was terminating, when asked how close to Richmond it was going the reply was you may as well tell me!

    After experiencing this first hand today all i can say is what a cock up! Major improvements are needed!

  3. Sadly I have to agree with quite a lot of the negative comment.

    One observation I would make is that, somehow, TfL will have to inform most of the SE of England, including all the Home Counties and probably at least one layer of County beyond that.

    I am presuming that there are reasonably up to date traffic surveys that allow TfL to prioritise the sort of notice required to people likely to be affected by the route.

    Now would be a good time to do some (more) targeted traffic surveys on the whole route and any connecting trunks. TfL might be surprised at the distance and number of people that travel to get to or across that route.

  4. Just to be clear TfL doesn't organise sports events. We are obliged to facilitate the road closures and the consequences. And you don't take out this much road capacity without causing some difficulties

  5. All positive suggestions welcomed, of course!

  6. It just occurs to me to ask, in the light of your warning about more general road closures during the main event, whether TfL / LOCOG are going to do a test "set the roads up as for the main Olympics" event soon?

    If Tfl want to concentrate the minds of businesses and commuters as to what is going to happen to London during the Olympics next year - doing a full scale test of the road configuration would be quite a erm... definite way of achieving that.

  7. I went to a wedding at a hotel in Wimbledon, left at 11am, no one mentioned this the night before or AM, I live in Chiswick so a 20 min journey took 2 hours, the Stewards I spoke to (polite)were unable to help tell us where to cross the route, we ended up going to a busy M25! home 2.5 hrs later. A waste of time and petrol. OR another view 'UK productivity and Carbon emissions'.
    Suggestion create cross over point? Maybe not public it just for those that missed all the publicity you stated, will state next time. I'm quite news aware but missed your campaign. I think ultimately seeing the confusion, lack of signage, you failed to do a good and reasonable job on the day.

  8. I am glad to hear that the test cycle event was, on the whole, successful. It is only by doing these things that one can learn of the problems. Although not directly affected I was aware of the considerable disruption to public transport because of my interests. A friend here in Bromley who set off for Heathrow using a bus and connection to the X26 (having become wary of trying to use the Underground at weekends) got a bit of a shock when he discovered what was happening and how long it would take. A difficulty with a city such as London is that its size creates such an enormous number of origin and destination pairs that the disruption to individuals is potentially very great. Whilst it sounds as if there was comprehensive coverage for those living along the route the message did not seem so prominent away from that.
    May I suggest that for future test events, and for the actual Olympics and Paralympics, everyone is encouraged through a major campaign to check their journey over a very wide area of London and the Home Counties.

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  10. Leon, one of the simplest positive suggestions would be to have advertised this closure via the TMC traffic channel. The large percentage of people who use gps would have been automatically rerouted onto an open route. If the highways agency can update this channel within seconds of an incident, why can't Tfl with weeks to plan? Beyond this my biggest concern in the chaos of Sunday was that neither the stewards or police were able to offer advice around the closure...

  11. not about the race, sorry, but i thought this - about two-way working in tottenham court rd, and how buses and cycles could benefit - might interest you